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Conservation Education Corner – December 2016

by Denny Olson FAS Conservation Educator

Denny OlsonOther than the Teacher’s Trunk Workshop, which happened on October 20, this last month continues to be a writing and gathering creative time. The next “events” will be the Christmas Bird Counts – Bigfork on December 17 and Kalispell bringing in the New Year right on January 1. The nationwide Winter Trails Day is Saturday, January 14, and for those hardy souls with good winter clothing, I’m going to offer a morning birding and snow tracking walk in Owen Sowerwine Natural Area starting at 10:00 AM by the Treasure Lane trailhead. OSNA is by no means “inactive” in the winter!

In future months, remember that Project Feederwatch is ongoing, The Great Backyard Bird Count happens February 17 – 20, and I’ll be starting the FVCC Senior Institute Birding classes on Friday afternoons from February 17 – March 24 (6 classes in the series).

The creative “downtime” happening now is anything but downtime. I’m preparing an extensive report for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to complete the requirements for an education grant they awarded us a little over a year ago. Our Mentoring and Monitoring Day in OSNA on September 27 was part of that grant, and we had 28 high-schoolers from Flathead High and Glacier High each paired up with elementary students from Kalispell Montessori School, for a day of scientific vegetation monitoring, making sound maps, developing their observation skills by “meeting a tree” blindfolded, having some solitary quiet time for journaling, and doing a service-learning invasive weed removal at the end of the day.

The other part of the grant was to further develop our Riparian Wetlands educational trunk. I chose to write a sequence of activities about “birds and the river” – starting with activities on “we’re all downstream and upstream from somebody” watershed activities, finding our “water address”, “who am I” and “what am I made of” (food pyramid) games about 16 river-bottom birds, “pollution: dilution solution?” with water glasses and food coloring, a bird toxins bioaccumulation game with poker chips of different values, a mapping exercise about migration highways (like the north-south river and ridge systems we have here), classroom and OSNA field activities on sound mapping, a field study on OSNA spring bird surveys, and service-learning on invasive plants and animals with a study-removal field day at OSNA.

Also, our 2018 FAS phenology calendar has to be ready for the printer by late February – for proper marketing and sales. Our crack team is hard at work – Lana Batts and Jan Metzmaker (with help from other volunteers) recruiting partnerships and marketing Jake Bramante doing calendar design, and myself writing monthly and daily natural history content. Our theme for this calendar is “Glacier Country: the Backbone of the World” and is about the Crown of the Continent and the adjacent valleys and prairie edges.

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